The dreaded “ask”. Asking for money is by far the most challenging aspect of fundraising, but it doesn’t have to be! When soliciting donors for money, your chances for success will greatly increase if you avoid these common mistakes.
1. Tiptoeing around the ask
Sometimes committee members are so uncomfortable asking for money that they spend all their time talking without ever actually asking for the gift!
Instead of beating around the bush hoping donors will offer money, be sure to ask for a specific amount that donors can then negotiate or respond to with a yes or no. Being specific in your ask will also prevent donors from having to guess how much money your organization needs or wants.
2. Asking for Too Little
You’ll have plenty of donors who give less than the amount you originally asked for – in fact, it’s almost expected. You won’t, however, have many donors who will voluntarily raise that amount and pay more. That’s why it’s always better to ask for more money than you’d expect to get, so even if donors agree to a lesser amount you’ll still end up hitting your goals.
3. Asking Too Early in the Relationship
Never start a relationship with donors by asking for money. With new donors who show interest in your Nonprofit, spend time cultivating and building a positive relationship before you begin your solicitation. Take them out to lunch or invite donors to an event your organization is hosting.
The more time you spend cultivating new supporters, the more willing they will be to give money to your cause later on in the relationship.
4. Asking Without Researching
While you work towards building positive relationships with donors, be sure to do your research and learn as much information about them as possible. Find out more about their demographic to discover their passions and hobbies. Do they support other organizations? Who or what do they care about helping? How do they want their money spent?
Researching your donors and learning everything you can will allow you to tailor your ask to better align with each individual’s motivations, needs, interests and financial capacity.
5. Just “Winging it”
You might be a smooth talker who can think quickly on your feet, but that doesn’t mean you can do this without practice. The more comfortable you feel with your ask, the more confident you’ll sound to donors.
Before you go out and talk to donors, spend time practicing with other members of your committee. Do some role play to put yourself in different scenarios and practice overcoming objections. Get to know your ask backwards and forwards so the most important points of your appeal come naturally no matter what you are presented with.
6. Not Listening
You don’t want your ask to sound like a sales pitch. Instead of being the only one talking, turn your ask into a fruitful conversation and get donors to share their thoughts about your organization’s mission.
Not only will donors appreciate the chance to talk, but learning their opinions and perspectives will help you frame a much stronger ask.
7. Failing to Prepare Solicitors
Members of your organization might have different styles when it comes to asking for money, but they should all be prepared with the same tips and strategies to be more effective and consistent. Give them the tools they need to succeed, such as an auction item procurement packet containing donor forms, procurement letters and pamphlets with more information on your cause (See "Starter Kit" below).
Along with the information you want your team to know in case donors ask questions, provide useful strategies like the ones listed above to help your team become more confident when raising funds.
Even when fully prepared, donors still might say "no" to your ask – and that’s OK! Every Nonprofit has to hear “no” from time to time, but by avoiding these common mistakes your organization will hear “yes” more frequently.